I've been told a couple of times over the past few months to "grow up". Not in a malicious way--maybe in a bit more dismissive manner. But what do the "grown ups" know that I don't? Do they drop what they are doing to make time for life's little "puppet shows"? Have they kept their sense of wonder--and humor? Do they still dare to dream?In my limited experience in life I've learned that there is a subtle difference between being a responsible adult, professional, citizen and being a "grown up". As children we aspired to be "grown ups"--we couldn't wait until the day it was our turn. Then one morning we woke up and wondered what the fuss was about. If you've lost your appreciation for a spontaineous puppet show, then chances are that you've probably "grown up". Is it everything that you thought it would be?
Here we go again. Can't we just call people PEOPLE? This time it's Josh Bernoff of Forrester. He says:
"When I started in the business twenty-mumble years ago, writing software manuals, people who used software were unusual (and had to be masochists). We spent a lot of time talking about users. The word user was helpful -- it helped us to keep in mind that there was a poor slob on the other end of what we were building.
Those times are long gone. We know users are important now. Disappoint them and you lose. So why do we still have to call them "users," which puts the emphasis on the technology they are using?
Yes, I know "users are people, too." But you know what? All people are users now! (With nearly 80% Net penetration in the US this is pretty close to true.) Users put up with computers. People just do stuff.
Nobody talks about users of dishwashers, or users of retail stores, or users of telephones. So why are we talking about "users" of computers, browsers, and software?"
I'm all for "humanizing the experience"—but guess what? Sometimes labels help us to design better solutions, products and experiences for the PEOPLE who we serve who USE the stuff we develop for them. USERS. Some related thoughts below:
Originally posted on July 2006
When is a person more than just a person? If you want to design for people, don’t be afraid to “label” them. When used correctly, labels clarify and add context. They tell us what is important and what takes priority. An individual balancing their checkbook online is USING technology to complete a task—so they can do other things that are important (like putting the kids to bed). Someone listening to a podcast is part of an AUDIENCE consisting of likeminded people who share a common interest.
A person who decides to create their own online Ad after seeing what others have done is an active PARTICIPANT. Someone who engages in the social media network is part of a larger COMMUNITY. People who spend their money online or in the real world are CUSTOMERS. And when we partake in an economy where goods and services are bought, sold and exchanged then we become CONSUMERS—in addition to PEOPLE.
Labels help. Labels help us remember what’s important. Designing an interface that is useful and usable makes for a happy user. Happy users make happy people. And happy people tell good stories about your brand to others.
"I want to work in a small creative operation. I am staying here in the states. I love it over here".
~Rodd Chant, former executive creative director, Draft FCB.
"Why oh why do people in this day age still hold up “usability” as
something laudable in product and service design? Praising usability is
like giving me a gold star for remembering that I have to put each leg
in a *different* place in my pants to put them on."
~Todd Wilkens, Adaptive Path
"'Ive been spending much time with ad agencies and focus groups lately and can only conclude that--with some exceptions--they are mostly clueless."
~Bruce Nussbaum, BusinessWeek
"1. I exist.
2. I'm ok.
3. You exist.
4. You're ok.
5. The channel is open.
6. The network is exists.
7. The network is active.
8. The network is flowing."
A funny thing happened on the way to the World Economic Forum. OK, actually it didn’t happen until the end. The Assistant Managing Editor of BusinessWeek’s innovation coverage became friends with a couple of bloggers. From Nussbaum On Design:
“The soiree was swell I have now gone over to the dark side--to bloggers in the battle with MainStream Media. Of course, not all MSM folks refuse to get the idea of community, collaboration and conversation. My own boss at BW totally gets it. But there were so many at Davos who didn't.
I chatted up Jeff J. and Ariana H. and Jimmy W. (wikipedia) this trip out and found myself in alignment with them, more so than old pals at newspapers and magazines.”
is this significant? It’s significant because it may capture a key
theme we could be seeing more of in the near future. Bloggers have
become respectable. Well, not all bloggers to be fair. And while some
think that Social Media and Mainstream Media have blurred all together—I
think the relationship illustrated in Bruce’s post shows both division
and alignment, if not a relationship—a relationship that appears to be
OK, I’m taking some liberties with this post. I’m editorializing you could say. Of course I am. That’s because I’m not a reporter. I don’t have to be objective. You don't come here for objectivity right? You want to hear opinions—another distinction between the MSM and Social Media content generators (though let’s be honest—we all have opinions which can seep into what we do). Here’s another interesting tidbit from Nussbaum’s recent post:
“Something important is happening and we have to be part of it and evolve with it. So Jeff and Ariana, let's get more user generated content on our blogs and deepen our conversation with our own communities.”
One could argue that the last bit seems almost cliché. “Conversation”—and “community” are fast becoming near-buzzwords in this space. But consider the source—a veteran journalist reaching out to those who sit on the other side of the “Media Scale”. In short, we may not be moving along as quickly as the hype suggests (see Second Life), but personal publishing (AKA, blogging) and the broader Social Media movement just might be gaining credibility. I’ll end on a thought I brought up during my “Blog’s Eye View” presentations:
Kudos to the folks at Slideshare who have created a new way to share presentations online. Your voice can now be added to your presentations. I haven't had a chance to play with this feature yet—but essentially it looks like you upload an audio file to a previously uploaded presentation and you "splice" the audio to sync up with your slides.
I think this shakes up how thought leadership gets created, produced, shared and distributed. My one recommendation to the folks at Slideshare? Figure out how to do simple transitions. Even fades, which give the illusion of passing time can be helpful in a presentation as you narrate with visuals.
This experience will never replace actually "being there" or even the power of video. But like blogging and text, it makes it easy for unknown voices to be heard (take it from me). And if you have a voice—and a good story to go with it, then this tool might just be for you.
Hello. This post is for you. Yes, you. You're here listening—watching—observing. You read our thoughts, sometimes even follow along in our lives. You wonder how we can share so freely, in blogs—through the full spectrum of social media venues. You watch the memes spread and find out even more about us—about our personal lives and past experiences.
You sign up for our e-mails and feeds. You supplement your daily flow of mainstream information with what we have to say. But you don't talk back—even though you can.
The current meme traversing through our networks asks us to share 8 random things about us. It's so easy for "us" to pull up our instant publishing tools and throw our thoughts out to the Web. But you can too.
Take a good look at that comment box pictured above. It's instant publishing. Just like what "we" have—only with a few less bells and whistles. What are you waiting for? Tell us about you. Use any name or identity you want. Go ahead—get it off your chest. "We" do it all the time—and now it's your turn. Aren't you curious to see how it feels?
(Click for larger image)
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Conventional wisdom teaches us that just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should. And it's true—and wise. But it's also conventional.
When E-consultancy recently came up with the following list of top user experience professionals as ranked by general awareness and reputation, I thought it was odd to see someone like Seth Godin on that list:
1) Jakob Nielsen
2) Steve Krug
3) Jared Spool
4) Donald Norman
5) Jeffrey Veen
6) Jesse James Garrett
7) Louis Rosenfeld
8) Jenifer Tidwell
9) Seth Godin
10) Eisenberg brothers
So I wondered what it would look like if I created my own poll? Just because I could do it, I guess. And what if I put some less recognizable names on the list? What does the next generation look like? The results were pretty interesting. Jesse James Garret , Jared Spool and Donald Norman came in at the top 3 on "my" list. vs. Jakob Nielsen, Steve Krug and Jared again (nice to see Jared on both lists in the top 3). And as for the "up-and-coming" list, Luke Wroblewski, Dan Saffer and Dan Brown came in at the top 3 spots.
A big miss on my part was not including a heavyweight such as Alan Cooper in the "established" list, but it was too late to modify the lists (though it should be noted that his name came up several times in the "other" category). I don't think this exercise proves much other than that we now have alternative choices for this type of thing as delivered via social media. For every e-consultancy type listing, we get to present another viewpoint—a different perspective. It's worth noting that the Poll was limited to 138 participants, but you should not underestimate what this means. I'm fortunate enough to have a very "plugged in" audience here—practitioners in the field who know what they are talking about. So while the poll isn't exceptionally quantitative, you have to think about the qualitative aspect.
Lastly, I thought it would be interesting to see the "established" and "up and coming" names in contrast. Though folks like Leisa and Stephen P. Anderson didn't make it in the "top 3"—I am convinced that folks like these are rising stars and we will see/hear more from them in the future.
So don't take any of this too seriously—if your name isn't on either list, it doesn't really mean a heck of a lot. There are plenty of practitioners quietly innovating in the field, doing the day-to-day heavy lifting. Many of the names here represent individuals who are sharing knowledge in addition to practicing—or in some cases, they are just plain visible. If nothing else, the "extended" lists are a bit more interesting in comparison to the e-consultancy version. At least I think they are.
Per comments I've added Kathy Sierra in the "established" list and Dan Brown in "up and coming".
E-consultancy recently came up with a list of top user experience professionals as ranked by general awareness and reputation. Interesting to see that Seth Godin came up on the list as well—though I feel he's more in the marketing camp in comparison to the others. The names are:
1) Jakob Nielsen
2) Steve Krug
3) Jared Spool
4) Donald Norman
5) Jeffrey Veen
6) Jesse James Garrett
7) Louis Rosenfeld
8) Jenifer Tidwell
9) Seth Godin
10) Eisenberg brothers
So let's have a little fun. I've re-created the list and swapped out Seth and the Eisenberg brothers (an editorial modification). I also added a second list with some names that aren't as recognizable, but are making an impact in the profession (including yours truly—hey, it's my blog ;). In the "democratized" Web—how do you see it? Voting on the ones you feel strongly about will probably move them up on the list. Not selecting will have the opposite effect. You can also add names manually if you don't see someone who you think should be on the list. I'll give this some time and post the results when activity dies down.
Every time I pick up an iPhone, I am delighted and disappointed in the same breath. Apple has completely nailed the UI, and the industrial design of a new breed of "smart phone". The iPhone is so intuitive—so pleasurable, it's addictive. But I can't get over the fact that a design like this can't support a tactile, usable keyboard. So—I've mocked up something in the hopes that one day—someone will figure out how to combine the amazing experience Apple has delivered, with a totally usable keyboard that doesn't take up 3/4 of your screen when using it in the horizontal format.
Enter the "myPhone". Imagine taking the best slider design out there, like Nokia's N95, then adding a responsive trackball similar to the Blackberry Pearl. Yes, you would add some thickness to the iPhone design. This may turn off some Apple die hards who place a premium on the simplicity and elegance of Apple's designs. But I have to believe that someone out there—someone can provide a UI experience similar to what Apple has achieved without sacrificing the ability to enjoy tapping out lots of copy on a responsive QWERTY. And what about copy and paste? Currently the iPhone doesn't support this.
I may be dreaming, but a design like this could really enhance the mobile Web experience. More input. More interaction. All of the touch screen magic would still be there. All of the accents such as the chrome. The trackball could allow for one hand operation—I know this because I do it on my Sideckick all the time. Actually, if I had something like this in my hands, I might use both my thumbs and index fingers at the same time.
I don't know. Many feel that Apple's design is perfect. For me it's close. But I can't get over the typing experience. It's just not good when you compare it to much larger, tactile QWERTY's. There has to be a way to make this work. Are we ready to go to all touch screen even when it doesn't feel right? Am I the only one who feels this way?
This isn't a criticism of the iPhone. It's a brilliant piece of art and technology and extremely well designed. I may cave in and get one—I don't know how much longer I can hold out. But innovation sometimes happens when a need goes unmet. So far no one has nailed the mobile experience for me. I can't believe that I would be alone in this. The "myPhone" pictured above would also be able to take video, and allow you to edit certain documents. Imagine putting that little keyboard to use on a word doc or presentation when you are on the go. And imagine how good the mobile blogging experience would be.
Last week, Karl Long who works for Nokia conducted a virtual brainstorm for the perfect social media phone. I added my 2 cents and honestly, the iPhone is pretty close with the exception of a tactile keyboard, video and a higher resolution camera. So if there is a mobile company out there who has something like this on the drawing board, please count me in as a beta tester. If you can figure out how to make the slider design thin and responsive, and duplicate Apple's multi touch UI—you might just be able to give Apple a run for their money...
Or I could just be smoking something. Want some?
"Whether or not the "Age of Conversation" prompts you to log on and jump out of your comfort zone as voyeur, you'll at least be able to take your pick of 103 new links to change up that morning Gawker-Jarvis-Drudge routine."
~ Matt Kinsey, Advertising Age.
Our somewhat global joint effort, the Age of Conversation gets some serious ink as a feature in the bookstore section in Advertising Age despite it's official debut tomorrow. The book will contain quality content from a collection of professionals who are ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS in emerging media vs. industry pundits who keep an eye on it from afar. So why am I making this distinction? Because there are a lot of folks commenting on emerging media who offer opinions from an observational perspective. There's nothing wrong with this and it's definitely valuable as research, analysis and synthesis from smart and qualified people will always be in demand.
But may of the contributers of the Age of Conversation are also qualified industry professionals with one exception. We don't just talk about the effects of the conversation economy—we PARTICIPATE in it. Daily participation—in our everyday lives. Through blogs, Twitter, Second Life, Facebook, the list goes on and on...
But it's never been about blogging or the other never ending emerging technologies. As the debate rages over the perceived decline of blogging vs other forms of social media—The Age of Conversation book proves that one thing above all transcends technology and the race to test drive the latest "social app".
We are discovering our purpose through finding each other—and ourselves.
Social networks connect communities and individuals who are finding out that they have a lot in common despite our own individual diversities. The networks which are organic in nature and in some ways exhibit organized chaos—do produce fruit in the form of digital (and analog) fellowship, intellectual stimulation, sharing, and in this case giving birth to physical manifestation in the form of a book.
So why do I say it's about "finding our purpose"? Don't ask me. Ask any individual such as Karl Long of Nokia, Steve Rubel of Edelman, Mario Sundar of Linked In, Peter Kim of Forrester, Rohit Bhargava of Olgilvy PR, etc. Ask them how being a participant has influenced their professional and personal lives. And for practical examples at the organizational level—look at Adaptive Path, 37 Signals, Organic, Dell, (Direct2Dell just celebrated it's one year anniversary) Southwest, GM—brands large and small that have benefited from participation in meaningful ways. And of course this subject is near to my heart as my own experience as a participant has evolved the way I think, created new relationships as well as opportunities and influenced what I do for a living.
And for my designer friends, the Age of Conversation teaches us something about broader disciplines outside the bubble of the design world. We always talk about making something real. Rapid prototyping. Collaboration. Open source development. We talk about design as facilitation. The Age of Conversation effort shows us that marketers get this too. I'm really excited to see the physical book end up on my coffee table. It's tangible—real, and knowing that my cover design will package 100 + pages of interesting content from smart and passionate people tickles my own creativity and design sensibilities. Designers aren't the only ones producing artifacts you can touch.
Tomorrow, I get to buy the actual book. I'm going hard cover for maximum effect. In retrospect, the recent discussions about Twitter vs. Pownce vs. Facebook vs. blogging are all mute. At least for me they are. The potential of social media is this:
Knowledge. Creativity. Sharing. Relationships.
My contribution to the Age of Conversation is a one page essay called the Relationship Renaissance. In it, I propose the following:
"What sparked the original Renaissance? Some historians speculate that the “Black Death” had something to do with it. The theory is that this caused individuals to focus on the quality of their lives on earth in addition to the afterlife. As a result, art and science exploded with the help of Greek and Arabic knowledge.
Maybe our own “Black Death” has been business as usual. In Advertising. In Business. In our everyday lives. To be called a “Renaissance Man” means that you possess multidisciplinary talents. Today’s Renaissance men and women combine skills in personal publishing, podcasting, virtual worlds and other kinds of digital disciplines—which connect, converse, and ultimately allow us to relate."
My hope is that the book allows us to relate. If you are a non-participant—maybe it will provide an insight or two into the world of an active participant. what it's like to produce content and engage in conversations with our communities. If you already participate, then maybe you will see a perspective which challenges some of your current assumptions. Either way, I think it will be a good read—for a great cause.
Hmmmm, I wonder what Jakob Nielson would say about me posting this video? I mean, it's kind of interesting and I think the voice reminds me of Ricardo Montalban saying "Corinthian Leather" in the old Chrysler Cordoba ads. But Jakob says blogs should contain articles—not blog posts, in order to maximize the chances of a blog being successful. What's a Web author supposed to do? I'm too tired to write an article. Sometimes we just want to share something we recently saw (or experienced). Sorry Jakob, next time I'll write an article. In the meantime, enjoy the video. It's a bit far fetched in a science fiction kind of way—but worth watching. Be sure to watch to the end, that's where "experience is the new reality" comes in.
Tip of the hat to Benhamin
The view from the Critical Mass "penthouse office" in Toronto.
The bus gets ready to leave to go to the "Summer event" venue.
At the summer event location.
Matthew gets his groove on before he goes full throttle on the Go Carts (what you don't see in the pic is how I rammed Matt's Go Cart into a divider—but don't worry, he got me back...)
Tomorrow I'm off to Toronto to attend "Summer Event". Every year, Critical Mass holds a 2 day "festival" complete with creative exercises, music and lots of beer. I am going to be part of the "speaker series"—so I had to come up with something to talk about.
I guess I could have blathered on about "2.0" stuff. Social Networks this and community that... I could have dazzled the audience with my knowledge of the newest lingo like Pounce, Ziggs and of course BouGie.
What I opted to do instead is talk about something much more subtle. The changes that we are all feeling in the workplace and within our industries which are requiring us to think and work slightly differently. We can no longer afford to over-analyze our challenges. We must try to get things launched—learn from these experiences and refine. We must define ourselves and what we do more broadly while retaining the potency of our our crafts. It's about going from left brain to right brain and ending up on "light brain". We must become "fuzzy".
Being fuzzy as I outline in the deck is about unlearning everything we think we know—so we can actually learn and adapt. It's about less focus on rigid tasks and job descriptions and more focus on bringing our efforts together in the overlaps—where our skills compliment each other. It's about being more nimble and adopting "fuzzy" processes to compliment our tried and true methods that have served us well in the past.
The Fuzzy Tail is my way of saying "we won't become the blacksmiths of our time". It's about pushing past the commodity—the end product or service which can be outsourced. It's about putting aside egos, getting out of silos and mixing it up with each other—I mean really mixing it up. Planners who think like designers—designers who obsess about business—information architects who write—writers who act like strategists—project managers who can direct creative and creative directors who are willing to let them. People who are willing to let others play in their sandbox.
Well' that's the thinking anyway. We'll see how it goes over.
The Age of Conversation Book comes out next Monday. Here's a mock up of what it will look like. I've created a permanent page here which I'll update as events related to the book unfold. The book includes contributions from over 100 Web authors (i.e. people with blogs)—and ALL proceeds go to a good cause. For more info, visit the Age of Conversation page.
At some point I'll do a breakdown of why Millenium park in Chicago is a good experience, but for now--here's a picture of the "towers" in use. This particular part of the park invites people to interact with it, to surround yourself within it's "mini ecosystem". Each tower displays rotating videos showing people's facial expressions. Every five minutes or so, one of the faces "puckers up" and sprays cool water on the participants splashing their way through the fountain.
Water is recycled at the edges of the fountain, then pumped out again. You never see a single pipe or piece of plumbing. Though the center appears deep, it's only about two inches--just enough for a good splash. The fountain invites you into it's environment, offers to cool you down on a hot summer day and humanizes the interaction through oversized facial expressions which can be seen from some distance. The rest of the experience is left to your imagination...
Valeria Maltoni over at Conversation Agent has pulled together a nice summary of the topic that's been on everyone's mind: Are we being overwhelmed by social applications?
"Why do we need so many tools for social interactions? Have we suddenly become incapable of interacting with our friends, neighbors and colleagues?
Have we become so isolated in our daily work life as agents of our destiny that we need to have surrogate environments to hang out?
More importantly -- What about the work it takes to update all these networks? I have a hard enough time updating my LinkedIn! Has anyone thought about integrating?
And now that we have social networks are blogs obsolete?"
Andy Rutledge offers up a thoughtful piece of commentary on why he feels the CNN re-design is a success. The post includes visuals and is a must read for designers.
"One of the basic, overriding elements featured in CNN’s new website design and layout is something I like to call quiet structure. Quiet structure is achieved when you de–emphasize the structural elements; the containing boxes, structural lines, bullets, structural color elements, etc… and bring a rhythmical consistency to the layout. The result is that the content becomes more conspicuous and the overall clarity of presentation is greatly enhanced."
Everything in Flux
Kevin McCullagh says that design is changing in a myriad of ways. He's right—and it's not just design.
"The era of product design as practiced by a small band of gurus in Milan, London, Munich and New York is long gone. There are now thousands of competent product designers around the world able to 'give good form.' Design as 'styling' or 'form-giving' has become commoditized, and competing at this level is already a tough low-margin slog."
"I like to hire folks with a broad range of interests and who have switched fields at least once. Just as learning a foreign language gives you the confidence and knowledge to learn others, switching fields gives people the assurance and tools to tackle new problems."
See some related thoughts in Creativity 2.e
A little visual brain food to get your day started off right, compliments of Mike Press.
July 4th in Glenview, IL. If you are wondering what's on the float, it's a Cicada--Illinois' unofficial state bird (or at least they should be). Cicadas are the size of a small child, and they have a habbit of flying directly into you at high speeds using their little cat-like claws to secure themselves, requiring a crowbar to pry them off. And don't you get me started on how noisy they are. Yup, I have a soft spot for the little insect monsters. Can't you tell?
Karl Long, Nokia employee and emerging media pro gave me a heads up regarding a video he just produced along with Paul Whitaker. What's worth noting is that Karl actually hit the streets and chatted up a few folks about their current phones and what they were trading in for the iPhone etc. Nokia is definitely taking the iPhone threat seriously, but it's pretty cool to see a few folks out there mixing it up at the personal level to try to get a better Karl also discovered that the iPhone doesn't do video:
"One side note that I only discovered after doing this video is the iPhone doesn’t do video at all, which I was really surprised about. When Paul was editing he put his Nokia fan boy bumper that said “you can watch this on an iPhone but you couldn’t make it” and I actually argued with him on that point, I thought video was assumed."
I give a lot of credit to Karl for going out there and using a Nokia phone to document the power of Apple. When the competition heats up—you should absolutely get out there to see what's going on. And in this case, Karl and team hit the pavement to see first hand.
Speaking of Nokia—I absolutely love this slideshow they produced. I don't own a Nokia phone. If anyone out there does, do you feel the sideshow is consistent with your experience with Nokia?
Do you believe in the Bougie Man? You shouldn't. My previous post was a gag. There really isn't a new social media app called "Bougie". Earlier in the afternoon after watching all of the chatter around real technologies with peculiar sounding names such as Pownce, Spock, Ziggs etc. it got me thinking about how we respond to the latest "thing".
After talking about the pretend service on Twitter—I got some requests for invites via direct message. Each time I got a request, I immediately told the person it was a gag and asked if they wanted to play along. And so the "myth" of Bougie spread. No one questioned the name because in the 2.0 world we live it, it sounds just right. Every time we turn around—there's something new to try. Something that promises to do wonderful things for us. I picked the name from a medical dictionary. Apparently a Bougie is a tube like instrument used in medical procedures. It also has several "urban definitions".
So it started as a gag—but as my partners in crime joined into the game—you could see the viral roots start to take hold. An interesting experiment—and I'm not sure exactly what the lessons are. Maybe it has something to do with our desire to be a part of the next big thing. Maybe it says something about how much we value our "personal filters"—the people who we look to. Maybe it also says something about the willingness to play along. As I invited each person individually—they became a part of the story. We improvised on the spot. It probably says something about myself as I invested more time in this silly spoof than actually investigating Pownce which Chris Cree was kind enough to invite me to—(I did get so far as to register).
So to be clear, "Bougie" does not exist in the context of the latest social media application. But we've all probably believed in a Bougie at one point or another. I know I have.
Update: Don't believe the hype.
With everyone chatting about Pownce, Spock, Ziggs and of course the iPhone, it's becoming difficult to keep up with, let alone try out the new technologies. Luckily since I don't have an iPhone —I've had some time to play around with BouGie. I'm on a limited beta test plan and have been asked not to blog about it in detail until they give me the green light, but I think it's going to be big. Stay tuned...